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An easy olive oil cake you can mix in a bowl (no mixer), filled with fresh cherries. Make this not-too-sweet cake for a simple, elegant dessert.
In the spirit of less is more – especially when it comes to making a homemade cake – I give you a recipe for cherry-studded olive oil cake, baked in a good old-fashioned bundt pan.
Cakes made with oil are a staple of Mediterranean kitchens, places where olives grow happily (and I imagine the people do, too).
In fact, one of my best food memories is tasting an authentic Italian olive oil lemon cake, a treat I enjoyed on a trip years ago.
Compared to butter cakes with fancy layers, a simple olive oil cake like the one I fell in love with in Italy is really the most humble of homemade desserts.
After all, there’s not much fuss involved in making the batter — you don’t even need an electric mixer!
I pulled out my favorite Bundt pan to bake this cake, just to add that classic ring shape that everyone loves.
It must be the simplicity of a basic olive oil cake that makes them enduringly popular.
I mean, think about it.
Olive oil cake is naturally moist and not overly sweet, which makes it highly snackable, if you ask me.
While I usually prefer to take my cake plain and simple, on occasion I’ve added fruit to olive oil cakes – case in point, this Cranberry Citrus Olive Oil Cake.
The tangier and denser the fruit, the better.
This time, I tweaked the basic batter with fresh pitted cherries because they were on sale (it was peak summer and I stocked up!).
Aside from cherries, you have some choices with the way you flavor and serve the cake.
Olive oil cake variations:
- Substitute an equal amount of fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries for the cherries.
- Stir in the zest of a whole orange or lemon for a lovely citrus hit.
- Add one or two tablespoons of Grand Marnier, Curacao or other citrusy liqueur.
- Go minimalist! Leave the fruit out of the cake completely.
- Decorate the top of the cake with the glaze, dust with confectioner’s sugar or leave it nude.
How to pit cherries
Let’s face it. Cherries don’t come pitted, so that means someone has to remove them.
I’ve read that traditional French bakers leave the cherry pits in certain desserts, like clafoutis, because it’s believed they impart extra flavor.
I have no idea it that’s true. But, since we don’t roll that way (and I treasure my dental work), those pesky pits must go.
- The most efficient way to remove the pit from a cherry is with a tool called a cherry pitter, an inexpensive gadget that also comes in handy for pitting olives (all hands up for multipurpose kitchen tools).
Before you get to work, take my advice and put on an apron or an old t-shirt. Pitting cherries can be a juicy task, but that gorgeously-colored juice will likely stain your clothes.
To use the cherry pitter, position the cherry on the rounded side of the tool, then press down. The plunger will push the pit out like magic.
Pitting cherries without a cherry pitter
Don’t have a cherry pitter? You can use a small knife to remove the pit. Run the blade of a paring knife down the one side of the cherry to slice down to the pit. then open it up and remove the pit.
If you like to really real in the kitchen, it’s also possible to just tear the cherries apart with your bare hands and pick out the pit with your fingers. It’s kind of messy, but also strangely satisfying.
Olive oil in cake batter
Olive oil is a beautiful fat to use in cakes and for baking in general. Because it’s lighter than butter, cakes made with olive oil tend to have a bigger, fluffier crumb.
Olive oil is also acts as an emulsifier, binding with the dry ingredients to help make a moister cake.
As a matter of fact, the most intensely fudgy brownies I’ve ever tried are made with olive oil. Check out my Olive Oil and Cocoa Brownies for a recipe.
Best olive oil for baking
In general, I choose to bake with mellow-tasting olive oils that have a buttery flavor profile over ones that taste green and grassy.
The best thing to do is simply taste your oil before baking with it, and also to go with one that’s reasonably priced since you’ll need 1 cup to make the cake.
That means you can save your prized (and more expensive) extra-virgin oil for drizzling over sourdough bread or summer corn and tomato salad.
I’ve had good experiences using an everyday olive oil like this one. It is extra-virgin, but with a lighter flavor. And, while it won’t be an “olive oil” cake, you can always use a good quality, healthful vegetable oil like avocado oil or organic canola oil.
Cherry Olive Oil Bundt Cake
- 12 ounces (345 g) pitted cherries, halved
- 2 ¾ cups (400 g) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ⅓ cups (290 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
- 1 cup (250 ml) milk, dairy or plant-based
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1½ cups (180 g) confectioner’s sugar
- Heavy cream
- Adjust oven rack to the center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or oil a nonstick 12-cup fluted cake pan and lightly dust with flour (make sure to get into the crannies)
- Toss the cherries in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons flour. Shake off any excess.
- Stir together the remaining 2 ¾ cups flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl until combined.
- Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Drizzle in the oil little by little until emulsified. Stir in the milk and extracts.
- Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture, stirring just until the batter is smooth and no flour is visible. Gently fold in the cherries.
- Scrape the batter into the pan. Bake 50-55 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Cool the cake in the pan 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Stir the sugar and add 2 tablespoons heavy cream in a bowl until smooth. Add more cream by the tablespoon as needed, until you have a thick but spreadable consistency. Set the cake on a wire rack over a piece of parchment paper and drizzle the glaze over. Let it set slightly before slicing.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- The glazed cake will keep for 2 days at room temperature.
- Cake can be made 2 days before glazing – wrap securely in plastic and store at room temperature.
- You can decorate the cake with whole cherries and some tender rosemary sprigs to fancy it up a little.